By WIN Contributor: Scott Paul, Personal Trainer
Bench-press, push-ups and squats all have at least one thing in common. They all require the movement of two limbs. They are known as bilateral exercises. They are very effective movements, but if you can squat 150lbs, you should be able to do a single-leg squat with 75lbs, right? Not so fast! You will often find one side a little weaker than it’s opposing side. This is usually your dominant side compared with your non-dominant side.
Working with one side at a time is very important as it relates to many sports and everyday life. A hockey player often needs one leg at a time to power through his/her skating stride and a person lifting a couple grocery bags with one hand, while getting his/her keys out of their pocket needs the strength in a single side.
I often use unilateral training with my clients, whether they are athletes or not. It can prove very beneficial. When training for stability, for example, I will often have them perform a bilateral exercise followed by a unilateral exercise. The bilateral exercise can “tire” out the bigger muscles, and then you are forced to use the smaller muscles in the second exercise while gaining strength in one side at a time.
In an injured individual, this also works. By working one limb, while the other is injured, you can still reap the benefits in the injured limb. This is called bilateral transfer, which is a topic for another day.
Bottom line, injured or not, unilateral training is very important and very effective. You can’t just train bilaterally all the time. The sum of each side individually does not equal both sides does put together. The body just doesn’t work like that…and neither should you.